The magnificent cathedral is a symbol of the English church and Christianization. According to estatelearning, the Archbishop of Canterbury traditionally heads the Church of England. The mighty building was built from 1175 on the foundations of an old Romanesque church. With its mighty 75 m high tower, the cathedral is considered a Gothic masterpiece. The nearby Saint Augustine Abbey was destroyed during the Reformation and is now only a ruin. The Church of Saint Martin is one of the oldest in England.
Church Buildings in Canterbury: Facts
|Official title:||Cathedral, former St. Augustine’s Abbey and St. Martins Church in Canterbury|
|Cultural monument:||Cathedral with the cloister, the vault of which adorns 825 brightly painted keystones, the Christ Church Gate and the chapter house, the crypt with the former burial place of Thomas Becket, Lord Chancellor and Archbishop under Henry II, of Edward, the “Black Prince”, and Henry IV. With wife Joan of Navarre (1437), the Black Prince’s Chantry (prayer room of the Huguenots); on the site of St. Augustine’s College (1848) the former St. Augustine’s Abbey and St. Martin’s Church|
|Country:||United Kingdom, Kent|
|Meaning:||Spiritual center of the Church of England for centuries|
Church Buildings in Canterbury: History
|1070-77||Construction of the first cathedral|
|around 1160||Fresco “Paul with the snake in Malta” in the apse of the Anselm Chapel|
|1162||Appointment of Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury|
|1170||Murder of Becket in the northwest transept of the cathedral|
|1174-84||Reconstruction of the burnt down choir|
|around 1220||Becket window in the approach of the Trinity Chapel (cathedral)|
|1391-1405||Demolition of the Norman main and transept and new construction in the Gothic Perpendicular Style|
|1397-1411||Construction of the cloister|
|1512||Visit of the humanist Erasmus from Rotterdam|
|1517||Construction of the Christ Church Gate, gatehouse to the church district|
|1520||Reception of the young emperor Charles V by Henry VIII.|
|1531||Destruction of Thomas Becket’s grave and cremation of his bones|
|1935||World premiere of T. S. Eliot’s mystery play “Mord im Dom” in the Kapitelhaus|
Murder in the cathedral and pious pilgrims
Four knights of the king killed him, the king repented bitterly, the people made pilgrimages by tens of thousands to his tomb for centuries: no Archbishop of Canterbury was ever so revered as Thomas Becket, who, coming from a middle-class background, rose to be King Henry II’s bosom friend and was appointed by him as the spiritual head of the English Church. He fell out with his worldly master when he tried to set his own command over that of God – or more precisely: the Pope in Rome. In the second half of the 12th century it was still a question of whether secular or spiritual power was higher and who could dispose of the rich ecclesiastical income. The initially so adapted and later so stubborn Thomas Becket went into exile in France for his convictions.
The “Murder on the Altar” at Christmas 1170 triggered one of the largest pilgrimage movements in European history; it could well compete with the one in the footsteps of St. Jacob to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and was vividly described by the oldest of the many great British poets, Geoffrey Chaucer, 200 years later. “Pilgrim’s Way,” the pilgrimage on foot or on horseback, which lasted many days or even weeks, from the cathedral in Winchester across southern England to that of Canterbury and to Becket’s grave, was a very fun affair. She was certainly pious, the journey, but also cheerful and often even frivolous; In his “Canterbury Tales”, Chaucer vividly describes how merchant and abbess or monk and knight’s wife came to terms with each other on the long journey.
But Canterbury’s fame is much older than that of Thomas Becket: In the 6th century, St. Augustine was commissioned by the Pope to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxons, and he settled in Canterbury because he believed he would find the remains of a Roman church there. This supposedly came from the 1st century, i.e. from a time when Christians were still being persecuted all over the world. The church, which was consecrated to St. Martin, goes back to this oldest place of worship and competes with the much more magnificent cathedral as a place of faith. Only ruins remain of Canterbury’s third venerable site, the St. Augustine monastery with the missionary’s grave. It was one of the most important Benedictine abbeys in Europe.
The cathedral, however, is arguably the most magnificent place of worship in Great Britain. An Anglo-Saxon building burned down when the Normans took power in England under William the Conqueror in 1066. Your Archbishop Lanfranc replaced it with a much larger Romanesque monument of the new royal power, but this too had to be largely replaced and expanded after a conflagration in the late 12th century. The sky-striving early Gothic building, which visitors from all over the world admire today, may appear quite chaotic with its many side chapels and extensions, with its crypt and its late Gothic towers. Even the axis from the entrance in the west to the apse in the east is broken. But Canterbury Cathedral, seat of the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church.
King Henry VIII refused eternal rest to the richly gifted martyr Thomas Becket. The dead man was tried “for high treason against the king”. He had him called for defense for thirty days. When the deceased still did not appear in court, he had his bones burned and his property confiscated as a punishment. Gold, silver and jewels were so heavy that seven strong men had to walk twice to carry the chests out of the cathedral. For Henry VIII, who was always in need of money, the process was worth it.